The Qur'an: What Does it Mean?

By the Qur'an we mean the verses, phrases, sentences and
chapters uttered by the Holy Prophet of Islam, not as his own
words, but as the Word and the Book of God revealed to him; this
he claimed as his Everlasting Miracle which bears testimony to
his Prophethood; and with this he challenged not only those who
doubted its origin, and not only humankind alone, but even the
Jinns, saying that even if the Jinns and men joined forces to
produce the like of it, they would never be able to do even a
small
part of it This challenge was made not to any particular age, but
to all ages.

By this definition we exclude all the utterances of the Holy
Prophet which he did not claim to be the words of God (although
the ideas and subject matter were certainly a revelation from
God). The definition also excludes the words of the Holy Prophet
which he presented to the people as the Word of God, but not as a
miracle or a part of it with which he challenged the world
(namely the various Ahadees-e-Qudsi). These Ahadees-Qudsi
are so numerous and abundant that, collected together, they
would be no less than the size of the Holy Qur'an, if not more,
but their value is no greater than the other genuine traditions of
the Holy Prophet This definition must be kept in mind
throughout the discussion of the Holy Qur'an.

1. Of the religious records of historical value, pre- Islamic
or post-Islamic, in our possession, no document can ever
compete with the Holy Qur'an in authenticity. Of the
historical records which the Muslims claim to be most
authentic and genuine - of the Sunni school the Sehha-e
Sitta and of the Shia school the KotobeArba'a - none can
be said to have been within the reach of every Muslim
from his earliest years until his death as has the Holy
Qur'an. And no tradition is considered so important that
every Muslim child must learn, recite and memorise it
word for word with grammatical accuracy and phonetic
perfection as they must do with the Holy Qur'an.

2. This importance and care which is given to the Qur'an by
every Muslim did not emerge in a later period. The
Muslims were attracted to the Holy Qur'an as the Word
of God from the time of its revelation to the Holy Prophet
and its recitation to the people. The Holy Qur'an itself;
from the time of its revelation, encouraged the people in
various ways to learn, read, recite and memorise ft and to
ponder over every word of it and to listen carefully when
it was recited. When one recites it, one must first prepare
for it by dissociating oneself from anything which would
cause any diversion of thought or distraction of attention
(16:98-7:204).

3. The Holy Prophet was commanded by God not to
be in a hurry in the recitation, or in the
arrangement, of the Holy Qur'an, but to follow the
divine order in both respects. (This indicates that
the arrangement is not to be according to the date
of the revelation). In short, the student of the Holy
Qur'an will realise the importance and care
attached to the Qur'an by its Author; and therefore
the Muslims who rightly believe that God is the
Author of the Holy Qur'an, show the utmost
devotion to the Holy Book and obey the orders
required of them. They learn it, and make their
children learn it and put it into writing. Thus the
Muslims in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet were
taught that to learn the Holy Qur'an is "Ibadat"
(Devotion); to recite it is "Ibadat"; to write it down
is "Ibadat"; to teach others and make them read
and learn it by heart and understand it is "Ibadat";
and to use the verses of the Holy Qur'an in daily
life is "Ibadat". History records people who never
used any other verse or phrase or sentence in their
life than the words of the Holy Qur'an

The Holy Qur'an declares that the purpose of
the coming of the Holy Prophet was to bring the
teachings of the Book (the Divine Book) and to
show the importance of the written word. if the
teacher is absent, the student can read the written
word. The Holy Qur'an commands the people, in
their business transactions, to write down their
contracts before witnesses to avoid later doubts
and disputes. Is it possible that the Author of the
Holy Qur'an, who attaches so much importance to
writing down our business affairs, should not care
for His own important work, namely the provision
of a Book containing the fundamental principles of
the true, divine, universal and final message, a
message which is not only for one section of
humanity, or for a particular period of time, but
for the human race as a whole, for all times and
for all parts of the earth?

The authenticity and genuineness of the version of the Holy
Qur'an now in our possession, and its being the same Qur'an
uttered by the Holy Prophet, is so evident and obvious that no
Muslim scholar of any standing has ever doubted that this same
version of the Holy Qur'an - every letter, word, sentence, verse
and chapter - was uttered by the Holy Prophet In other words,
what we have in our possession is the Qur'an. The dispute is
about omissions and alterations in the arrangement of some
letters, and not about additions. Alterations and alternatives
given by some commentators regarding the writing or
pronunciation of some words in the Holy Book do not effect any
substantial change either in the meaning or the significance of
phrases or sentences. This will be dealt with in discussing
variations in the same word, for example "Malika" and
"Malika". In short, the Muslim World throughout the ages has
believed unanimously that nothing has been added to the Holy
Qur'an now in our possession. Religious records other than
the Holy Qur'an, Islamic and non-Islamic, are suspected of
containing passages and even chapters which have been added to
the original work.

Having in mind this complete authenticity of the Holy Qur'an
in every part, the Holy Prophet and his companions and scholars
in subsequent generations are unanimous in the belief that the
Holy Qur'an is to be regarded as the standard and the criterion
upon which other religious records, Islamic and non-Islamic,
must be judged. Any utterance or action attributed to the Holy
Prophet or the Holy Imams of his House which may disagree with
the Holy Qur'an is to be considered spurious and must be
rejected. This was declared by the Holy Prophet and by Ali,
Hasan and Husain and by the succeeding nine Imams of the Holy
House, which means that the Qur'an existed as the standard and
criterion for the verification of the falsehood and truth of other
statements and narratives available to the public through the ages
until 260 A.H.

There is no doubt that the Qur'an in our possession is the
same as the version which received the official assent of the
Third Caliph. All that has been said about the omission or
alteration refers to the arrangement or the wording of verses or
chapters in the period between the departure of the Holy Prophet
and the official assent of the Third Caliph to the present
version.

As has already been pointed out, the Holy Qur'an was in use
in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet There was a keen desire on
the part of Muslims, men, women and children, to possess the
Book - in writing or, mostly, by heart. There were also the
chosen scholars among the early Muslims to whom the Holy
Prophet had entrusted the duty of recording the Qur'an as it was
revealed and recited by him. The foremost of these was Ali ibne
Abi Taleb, Jafar ibne Abi Taleb; besides Ali there were Abdullah
ibne Mas'ood and Mas'ab ibne Omair among the earliest Muslims
in Mecca, and Obai ibne Kaab among the earliest adherents in
Medina, Ma'az ibne Jabal, Salim Maula Hazaifa and others.
Jafar ibne Abi Taleb was the head of the early Muslims who had
migrated to Abyssinia and he was a master of the Qur'an so far
revealed. Mas'ab ibne Omair was sent to Medina to teach the
Qur'an to the people before the migration of the Holy Prophet to
that place. These people recorded the Qur'an in writing under
the direct command and personal supervision of the Holy
Prophet, in his presence, as it was revealed, placing each part of
it in its relevant place as commanded by the Holy Prophet, and
reading their manuscripts to him then and there for his approval
and also repeatedly afterwards. These scribes were considered to
be responsible for teaching the Qur'an to others. They were
regarded as the masters and teachers of the Holy Qur'an during
the lifetime of the Holy Prophet and thereafter.

These people, and thousands of prominent companions
(Sahabas) who were interested in learning the Holy Qur'an and
its meaning, and their disciples such as Abdullah ibne Abbas and
others, all lived in the intermediary period between the departure
of the Holy Prophet from this world and the time that the Third
Caliph gave official assent to the present version. They taught
Muslims throughout the length and breadth of the fast-Expanding
Muslim Empire. And the people of various races and creeds
learnt it by heart and wrote it down for their own use. In fact,
it

is said that in the one battle of Yamama, which took place about
six months alter the departure of the Holy Prophet, seven
hundred Huffaz (those who know by heart) were killed in a single
day's fight.

The Qur'an existed during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet in
the form of an arranged Book as approved by the Holy Prophet
himself. As the Holy Prophet said, "Gabriel would place before
me the Qur'an for review once a year, but this year he did it
twice, which indicates that the time of my departure is close at
hand." It is evident that the divine Author and the Holy Prophet
both guarded the Qur'an to the extent that no adulteration of any
kind could be made by any profane hand, and that the Qur'an
received its complete arrangement and order not later than about
three months before the departure of the Holy Prophet. It is to
this revealed Book in its complete form and available to all that
the Holy Prophet referred when he declared to his followers: "I
leave amongst you Two Great Things, the Book of God and my
Ahlul-Bait."

And it was with reference to the complete Book of God,
which was in the hands of the Muslims at the time of the
departure of the Holy Prophet, that Omar dared to say reply to
the demand of the Holy Prophet for paper and ink, "Hasbona
Kitaballa", that is, "Sufficient for us is the Book of God" This
clearly proves that the Qur'an in its complete and duly arranged
form existed among the people, and was within the reach of the
common man, as were the Ahlul-Bait who were left by the Holy
Prophet together with the Qur'an If this were not so, a reference
to the "Book of God" is meaningless.

The Holy Qur'an claims for itself a pre-Existence with God (in
the Lauhe Mahfooz, the Secured Tablet) and the Kitabe
Maknoon, ie. the Hidden Book (for believers) or at least in the
mind of the Holy Prophet (for unbelievers). The arrangement of
the revealed book should be in accordance with the pre-revealed
arrangement, rather than in the order of the date of its
revelation.
For instance, a poet or writer may arrange his lyrics or articles
in

his mind. Although circumstances may force him to recite
portions from two lyrics of different method on the same occasion,
when he comes to put the work into writing, the lines of the
lyrics will be put in their correct order irrespective of the
date of
the recitation.

Although there is no problem, theological, theoretical or
practical, which the Qur'an has not dealt with (and it surpasses
all scriptural records of pre-Islamic or post-Islamic periods in
the

abundant variety of its contents), yet its method of approach,
presentation and solution is exclusively unique. It does not deal
with a topic in the systematic way - by ordinary authors of
theology or even by any apostolic writer; on the contrary, it
expressly says that it has adopted a special method of its own,
with changing topics, moving from one subject to another, or
reverting to the previous one and deliberately repeating the same
subject in order to reinforce the understanding, learning and
memorising of it:

And certainly We have used various arguments for men
in this Qur'an, every kind of description, but most men
consent not to aught but denying. (17:89)

And certainly We have repeated (the verse) to them that
they may be mindful, but the greater number of men
consent not to aught but denying. (25:50)
Say! Have ye considered that if God taketh away your
hearing and your sight and setteth a seal on your heart,
who is the god besides God that can bring it to you? See
how We repeat the verses, yet they turn away. (6:46)

Say! He hath the power that He should send on you
chastisement from above you or from beneath your feet,
or that He should throw you into confusion (making you)
of different parties, and make some of you taste the
fighting of others. See how We repeat the verses that
they may understand (6:65)
The repetition is to show forth in various ways the signs (of the
Unity of God).

From the following verse of the Holy Qur'an, it is quite
6bvious that the Holy Qur'an was already aware that there would
be those who would accuse its Author of scattering its subject-
matter here and there. For this reason, the verse (and other
verses) explains the special and unique system of presentation:

And thus do We (variously) repeat the verses and that
they may say, Thou hast learnt (them from others) and
that We may make it clear to a people who know.
(6:106)

However, it is a tact that the Holy Qur'an deals in each chapter
of a particular rhythm with various topics in various ways, and this
variety only adds to its unique beauty and matchless eloquence.
Any attentive reciter or intelligent audience of the Holy Qur'an,
while -sing through variations in one rhythm, will enjoy what
the Holy Qur'an itself declares:

God hath the best announcement, a Book comfortable in
its various parts, repeating thereof do make tremble the
skins of those who fear the Lord; then their skins and
hearts became pliant to the remembrance of God; This is
God's guidance. He guideth with it whomsoever he
willeth; and (as for) him whom God alloweth to err, there
shall be no guide for him.
Is he then who has to guard himself with his own
person against the evil chastisement on the Resurrection
Day? And it will be said to the unjust: "Taste ye what ye
earned."

Those before them rejected (the apostles) therefore
there came unto them the chastisement from whence they
perceived not.
So God made them taste the disgrace in this world's
life, and certainly the chastisement of the hereafter is
greater; if they only know (it)!
And certainly We have set forth for men in this
Qur'an similitudes of every sort that they may mind.
An Arabic Qur'an without any crookedness that they
may (guard) against evil.

God setteth forth a parable; there is a man in whom
are (several) partners differing from one another, and
there is another man (devoted) wholly to a man. Are they
two alike in condition? (All) praise is God's; nay! most of
them know not (39:23-29)

Even those who doubted the genuineness of the arrangement of
the present version did not claim that the whole arrangement of
the verses in all the chapters has been affected. There are
chapters which were undoubtedly revealed in complete form,
namely Chapters 54, 56, 56 and the chapters immediately
preceding and succeeding them. One will find the same
variation of subject is manifested in those chapters. This variety
of expression in rhythmical form is found not only in the
chapters, but even in the verses of the Holy Book. These are the
facts an intelligent and a sincere student of the Holy Qur'an will
recognise in studying the Book.

 

 

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